When I taught fifth grade, one of my favorite lessons was a unit I did on American inventors. I tried to get kids to see that everything we use was created by someone, usually in steps.
This is Black History Month. Therefore, I was doubly excited to find “What Color Is My World?” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld. The book is subtitled “The Lost History of African-American Inventors.”
We learn about these fantastic scientists with Ella and her brother as they work with a magical handyman.
We start with the light bulb and Lewis Howard Latimer who worked with Thomas Edison. We go on to potato chips, illusions, blood bank, open heart surgery, food preservation and even the Super Soaker.
We read about the struggles these scientists had to get an education and get their inventions accepted with no hope of recognition.
Several of the inventors used white people as fronts so they could get their inventions publicized.
Race cars, cortisone and even the lowly ice cream scoop are included.
This bright and captivating volume needs to be a textbook or at least in the children’s department of every library.
When I was little, we had relatives in Texas we went to visit periodically. Having grown up here in a diverse community, the segregation in the South was foreign to me.
In “White Water” by Michael S. Band and Eric Stein, we join Michael on a hot day excited about going to town with his grandmother. We watch as they can’t sit on the bus stop bench when whites arrive. We watch as they pay their bus fare in the front, get back off the bus and get on in the back.
We watch as he and a white boy head for the separate drinking fountains. The “colored water” trickled and was warm, rusty and gritty, but the “white water” appeared cool and clear and plentiful.
We watch as Michael obsesses over the “white water” and then as he plays hooky and goes alone to the white water fountain. Just as a white woman starts screaming at him, he discovers that the water is the same. He is so startled that he falls down and realizes that both fountains come from the same pipe. What else is fake?
We leave him realizing that he can do anything and that boundaries are in his mind.
My brother and I got into trouble in Texas on the bus when we tried to sit in the back like we did at home, and I got yelled at for wanting to see what color the “colored water” was. I really relate to Michael!